Catholic Beliefs about Mary

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Virgin Mary

The Virgin Mary, Jesus’s mother, is highly regarded in the Catholic Church. She is regarded as and intermediary between Catholics and God as is often referred to as "Our Lady," "Blessed Mother," or even “Mother of God." Mariology (or "Marion devotion," Marianism has a negative connotation) has grown as a kind grassroots purist movement rather than a declaration by the Pope or the Vatican. One priest told the Washington Post, "We do view her as the first saint, the most important saint. Christ is more important. Christ is divine. Mary isn't. Mary is human."

The Roman Catholic doctrine is that Mary and Joseph never had sex. The belief in the Immaculate Conception — that the Virgin Mary was freed of original sin by virtue of a special grace from God at the moment of conception — is a widely held belief among Catholics. In 1854, Pope Pius IX invoked the doctrine of papal infallibility to make the Immaculate Conception an infallible dogma even though it is not clear whether the conception refers to her conception or Jesus’s.

Mary is not buried anywhere because, according to the Catholic scripture but not the Bible, when she died she rose into the sky “assumed body and soul into Heavenly glory." This was made official ideology of the church in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. The major pilgrimage sites of Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe were all places where Mary not Jesus was seen.

In 1854 the Catholic Church promulgated the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception and in 1950 her Bodily Assumption. According to the former, Mary, like Jesus, was conceived without the taint of original sin, while the latter asserts that Mary was assumed directly into heaven. When Pope Francis was asked what Mary meant to him, he answered, “She is my mamá.”

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Annunciation, Immaculate Conception and Virgin Births

The notion of Immaculate Conception is that Mary was preserved from original sin by virtue of a special grace from God at the moment of conception. In 1854, Pope Pius IX made the Catholic concept an infallible dogma. The belief in the Immaculate Conception—that the Virgin Mary was freed of original sin at the instance of her conception—was a widely held belief. The papal declaration used in doctrine of papal infallibility to make it church doctrine.

Immaculate Conception
According to the BBC: “The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches that Mary, the mother of Christ, was conceived without sin and her conception was thus immaculate. Mary's sinless conception is the reason why Catholics refer to Mary as "full of grace". Many people confuse the Immaculate Conception with the "virgin birth"; the belief that Mary gave birth to Jesus while remaining a virgin. They are not the same thing.

The Annunciation (“Announcement”) marks the announcement by an angel that Mary will become pregnant and give birth to Jesus. According to the Bible, Mary became mysteriously pregnant while a virgin betrothed to Joseph, who considered divorcing her.

Mary is said to have been a virgin when Jesus was born. In his book “What the Gospels Meant”, the writer and thinker Gary Wills said it “is not gynecological or obstetric teaching, but a theological one.” The historical Jesus scholar Raymond Brown said, Matthew and Luke “regarded the virginal conception as historical, but the modern intensity about historicity was not theirs.”

The idea of a virgin birth was nothing new. The Romans used the idea in a story about birth of Caesar and his conception by the God Apollo. According to a prophecy in the “Book of Isaiah” the Messiah, would be born to a “virgin.” Some historians have suggested the idea of the miraculous birth may been constructed to hide accusations that Jesus was a bastard and that he father was a Roman soldier named Panthera. The notion of Immaculate Conception, that Mary was preserved from original sin by virtue of a special grace from God, is a Catholic concept made infallible dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

Immaculate Conception to Catholics

For Roman Catholics, Immaculate Conception means that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was conceived with a soul free from Original Sin. This differs from Christian belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and born of a virgin mother. [Source: Christine Rousselle, Fox News, December 9, 2022]

Catholics mark the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, a day that signifies the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. Catholics are expected to attend Mass on that date or a vigil Mass the evening before.

"The Catholic Church’s teaching on the Immaculate Conception is, in my opinion, one of our most beautiful yet frequently misunderstood doctrines," Fr. Cassidy Stinson, a priest of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, told Fox News. "In brief, this feast day celebrates the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was prepared for her unique and special role as the Mother of God by the gift of being redeemed and protected at the time of her conception from the effects of original sin, which we normally inherit from our parents," he also said.

The title Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is particularly important for American Catholics. In 1846, the bishops of the United States unanimously declared the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, as the patroness of the United States, according to the website of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

In December 2022, during the Angelus address in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City Pope urged encouraged people to put their trust in Mary as they struggle in the world. "Today the word of God teaches us another important thing: that to safeguard our beauty demands a cost, it demands a struggle," said the pope.” Choosing not to sin "takes effort" "It costs us; it takes effort to safeguard the good that is in us. Today we have good news: Mary, the only human being in history without sin, is with us in the battle, she is our sister and, above all, our mother. And we, who struggle to choose good, can entrust ourselves to her. "By entrusting ourselves, consecrating ourselves to Mary, we say to her: ‘Take me by the hand, Mother, guide me: with you I will have more strength in the battle against evil; with you I will rediscover my original beauty.’"

Assumption of Mary

The Papal infallibility invoked in 1950 by Pope Pius XII stated that the Assumption — the taking of the body and soul of Mary to heaven — really occurred. It was the last papal infallibility invoked. At the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, Pope John XXIII attempted to temper the enthusiasm for Mary with the statement: "The Madonna is not happy when she is placed before her son."

According to the BBC: Roman Catholics believe the doctrine of the Assumption, which teaches that at the end of her life, Mary, the mother of Christ, was taken body and soul (i.e. both physically and spiritually) into heaven to live with her son (Jesus Christ) for ever. Human beings have to wait until the end of time for their bodily resurrection, but Mary's body was able to go straight to heaven because her soul hadn't been tainted by original sin. [Source: July 21, 2011, BBC |::|]

“Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15th each year. Eastern Orthodox Christians, following the Julian calendar, mark the event as the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, or the Dormition of the the Most Holy Mother of God on 28th August. |::|

“The doctrine of the Assumption was proclaimed as infallible by Pope Pius XII on All Saints Day 1950 in the bull (formal proclamation) Munificentissimus Deus. We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. — Pope Pius XII, Munificentissimus Deus, 1950 |::|

“This made it an important article of faith for Roman Catholics. This was only the second time that a Pope had proclaimed a doctrine to be infallible. The first was the Immaculate Conception, another doctrine that concerns Mary. The Pope justified the Assumption not on Biblical authority but largely on: 1) the "universal consensus of the Church"; 2) the theological "suitability" of the doctrine."

Assumption of Mary

Movement to Make Mary “Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix”

There is a movement in the Catholic Church for the Pope to invoke papal infallibility to proclaim a new dogma that Mary is "Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate of the People of God." This would elevate her to a status almost equal to Jesus, something for which there is little in the Bible to back up.

As of 1997, the Pope had received a sort of petition with 4.3 million signatures from 157 countries to support the elevated status for Mary. Among the supporters were Mother Teresa of Calcutta, 500 bishops and 42 cardinals. Pope John Paul II is believed to have supported the new dogma. He has always had a deep reverence for the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, Poland and credited surviving the 1981 assassination attempt to the Virgin of Fatima.

The new dogma would say that Mary participated in the redemption, that all graces from the suffering and death of Christ pass through Mary's intercession, and all prayers from the faithful pass through Mary to Jesus. This notion of "Mariology" seems to contradict the scripture of 1 Timothy 2:5 which says: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus."

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Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins ; “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible,; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) , Frontline, PBS, Wikipedia, BBC, National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Live Science,, Archaeology magazine, Reuters, Associated Press, Business Insider, AFP, Library of Congress, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated March 2024

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